The Sioux Falls Thunder (1-2-0) picked up their first win of the 2021 season in a 4-1 win against the Dakota Fusion (0-4-0) thanks to strong efforts from Juani Mackrey and Stevenson Storm. The windy Saturday evening didn’t stop a deluge of goals despite cautious initial play from both sides.
The game opened defensively, with both teams looking to put a mark in the win column. A remarkable free kick from Storm in the 19th minute bolstered the Thunder side’s confidence, leading to a shot from forward Tyler Limmer rebounding off the Fusion crossbar less than a minute later. The Fusion made a substitution at the 30th minute in an effort to get fresh legs on the field, but the idea fell short as Mackrey blasted one into the net in the 33rd minute thanks to an assist to the top of the box from Limmer. The Fusion had a chance to equalize off of a misplaced punt from Thunder goalkeeper Federico Simonetti, but the Thunder recovered. The Thunder went into halftime up 2-0 with just 5 shots in total. They held this lead closely when Thunder defender Bigirimani Omari picked up a yellow card for a foul just outside the box, but the Fusion shot was a comfortable save for Simonetti.
The Thunder once again opened strong with Mackrey’s second goal in the 53rd minute, assisted by midfielder Brennan Haggerty and Limmer. Two subsitutions for the Fusion in the 61st minute preceded two yellow cards in the 65th minute, one for each side. Jorge Lopez was the recipient of the second Thunder yellow. A Fusion breakaway occurred in the 70th minute, but the shot went wide, giving them their best chance of the game and a glimpse of hope. Confusion in the box led to the Fusion’s first goal on their home field and their first goal against the Thunder, as a bouncing ball meandered into the box. The goal was attributed to defender Kyle Bleidt. Despite the nature of the goal, it infused the Fusion with renewed energy, and they pressured the Thunder heavily after the restart, hoping to get in the goals needed to equalize.
Simonetti stopped these efforts with two back to back saves in the 82nd and 83rd minute. The Fusion ran out of steam as the clock ran out, and another late substitution couldn’t save them. Storm sealed the deal in extra time with a volley inside the box in the 93rd minute. Thunder substitute Riley Aarbo collected from a bouncing ball off a sparsely-defended free kick who juggled the ball to Storm for the finish.
In the absence of Ryan Beier, Gary Glissendorf stepped up as acting head coach. "We have learned from the first two games of the season that we can be dangerous in the attack," said Glissendorf after the win. "We needed to work on sustaining possession to create more chances which we did better in this game. Throughout the game, the players communicated well with each other, helping the team maintain a good offensive and defensive identity. We did a better job in the second half with keeping our defensive shape and identity that we had at the start of the game. This enabled the team to deal with the extra bodies from [the Fusion] trying to get a goal and be able to play out of that pressure to get a few more chances."
The Thunder are back on the road against Joy St. Louis Park (1-2-1) on Wednesday, June 2 before beginning a two-game home stretch on Saturday, June 5.